The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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The Tortilla Curtain: Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He has just spotted Cándido on his way back from the plant nursery—“this Mexican, the man who’d invaded his life like some unshakable parasite, like a disease.” Out of his car, Delaney dials 911 and says: “I want to report a crime in progress—or no, an apprehension of a suspect.” Cándido hears this and darts out into traffic. A car swerves to avoid him and ends up hitting Delaney’s car, pulled over on the shoulder. Delaney watches as Cándido jogs away up the canyon road.
While he does not directly equate Cándido with a parasite, Delaney’s description of Cándido is incredibly dehumanizing, not to mention irrational given the fact that Delaney has, until very recently, been fixated on José Navidad—not Cándido. The fact that Delaney initially claims to be reporting a “crime in progress” only emphasizes how delusional he has become. Cándido may be undocumented, but Delaney has no way of definitively knowing this.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney exchanges insurance information with the woman who swerved into his car. When a police officer shows up, Delaney says: “I’m trying to tell you, it was this Mexican—he’s crazy, he throws himself in front of cars to try and collect on the insurance, he’s the one.” The officer replies: “Your vehicle was obstructing the road.” After Delaney’s car is towed, he begins walking up the road, following Cándido’s footsteps in the mud.
The police officer’s unemotional tone in the face of Delaney’s frantic accusations further underscores how out of control Delaney’s thoughts and actions have become by this point in the novel. He is determined to prove that Cándido is “the one” who has made his life feel so unfulfilling, no matter how irrational he may appear in the process.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Kyra’s perspective. She is driving through the rain to pick up Jordan at a friend’s house. She has been feeling apathetic about her work lately; however, the beauty over the area she is driving through is lifting her spirits. While driving, she spots a “For Sale By Owner” sign and impulsively decides to stop and check out the house. Exhilarated by the house and its land, Kyra speculates that “this place [could] be the anchor for a very select private community of high-end houses, and that’s where the money was, in developing—not selling.” Kyra approaches the house to speak with the owner.
This passage highlights Kyra’s goal-oriented nature. Though she was, very recently, furious about the destruction of the Da Ros house, Kyra is so driven that she has quickly left this loss behind and moved on to thinking of other careers. This passage is also significant because of what it says about Kyra’s relationship to nature. Kyra does not enjoy the natural world for what it is; rather she views it through a selfish lens, as a means of advancing her career goals.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He is still walking up the canyon road, tracking Cándido—“his quarry.” He is determined to “[track] this clumsy Mexican all the way to Hell and back” even “if it [takes] all night.” It occurs to Delaney that Cándido may have been the one to set the fire and he thinks that “it would have been better for everyone concerned if [Cándido had] just crawled off into the bushes and died.”
Delaney’s language here is overtly racist. He has reduced Cándido to the status of a hunted animal (a “quarry”).  Furthermore, where he earlier wanted to see Cándido out of his life, Delaney now explicitly wishes Cándido dead. He even seems to think that Cándido himself would be better off dead. This passage clearly shows how far gone Delaney is in terms of his surrender to obsessive, racist hatred.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
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Delaney makes his way home to pick up a flashlight. As he is walking through the rain toward the gate of Arroyo Blanco Estates, Jim Shirley pulls up in his car. The two chat briefly, and as Shirley pulls through the gate Delaney sees by the light of his headlights that the wall has been graffitied again. “This [is] it,” he thinks, “the declaration of war, the knife thrown in the dirt.” Delaney collects his camera from the guard’s office near the gate, and sees that he has six exposed photos. He then jogs home to fetch his handgun, which Jack Jardine convinced him to purchase six months ago for “home protection.”
This passage highlights how Delaney’s hatred of Cándido has primed him to see everything as an attack; thus, he interprets the new graffiti on the wall as a personal challenge or “declaration of war.” The extremity of this language, in addition to the fact that Delaney decides to use his gun for the first time ever, shows that Delaney has reached a turning point and is willing to be even more violent than he was at the police barricade, when he attacked José Navidad.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Having loaded the gun, Delaney assures himself that “he would never use the thing, never fire it, never—but he was going to draw it out of the holster in all its deadly flashing beauty and hold it there over that vandalizing alien black-eyed jack-in-the-box till the police came and put him away where he belonged.” Delaney changes out of his wet clothes and heats up some food. He anticipates that Cándido will be easy to find in the rainy hills, because he will have to have  a fire going for warmth. Delaney finds he is “trembling,” not from walking in the rain but from “pure adrenaline.”
Delaney’s surge of adrenaline seems to have reduced him to an almost primal state, demonstrating how hate is almost as destructive to the person harboring it as to the person who is the target of it. Delaney is clearly on a power trip at this point, relishing the idea of terrifying Cándido merely for the sake of humiliating him.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney lets himself into the Cherrystones’ house to use their darkroom. He develops the six new photographs and finds that it is Jack Jr. who graffitied the wall, “the spray can plainly visible in his big white fist.” The revelation “almost [stops] him. Almost.” Delaney balls up the photos and throws them in the trash. “That Mexican was guilty,” he tells himself, “sure he was, guilty of so much more than this.”
Delaney’s bigotry is out of control at this point. Despite the fact that he has evidence of Jack Jr.’s guilt, Delaney persists in believing Cándido is to blame, even exaggerating that blame to account for “so much more” than the graffiti on the wall. This passage dramatizes how far Delaney has fallen, given that he was recently completely appalled by Jack Jr.’s behavior in telling racist jokes, and is now destroying evidence in order to protect him.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
On his hands and knees, Delaney scrambles up the muddy hills. He feels that “the universe [has been] reduced to the square foot of broken sky over his head and the mud beneath his hands. He [is] out in it, right in the thick of it, as near to the cold black working heart of the world as he could get.” Delaney is determined to “[root] [Cándido] out of his burrow.” He thinks, he “[has] been here before, been here a hundred times stalking a hundred different creatures—he [is] a pilgrim, after all.” Delaney catches the scent of a fire, touches the gun “where it lay tight against his groin, and let[s] his nose guide him.”
In this passage, Delaney perversely satisfies his goal of being a “pilgrim” who is wholly attuned to the natural world. However, the language of this passage suggests that it is Delaney’s heart that is cold and black; Delaney, like the other characters of the novel, is merely seeing himself reflected in the natural world. Furthermore, this passage shows that Delaney’s hatred has reduced him to a subhuman state; he is crawling through the mud, being guided by his nose and the feeling in his groin.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
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